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The recent COVID-19 pandemic has changed what a normal life looks like. Because of the vast shift that we all have to adapt to, all traditional businesses are especially affected, specifically through the practice of social distancing that discourages customers from visiting physical stores. However, the good news is that, despite social distancing, people are still actively shopping from home. In fact, according to an analysis by ACI Worldwide, transaction volumes in most retail sectors have seen a 74 percent rise in March compared to the same period last year, while online gaming has seen a staggering increase of 97 percent.

If anything, this means one thing: business owners with brick and mortar shops will soon have to move their businesses online, FAST!

The good news is, the pandemic has also changed consumers’ habits when it comes to online shopping. Before, people would normally only shop online for clothes, gadgets, and other non-perishables and would prefer to buy their groceries in physical stores. But due to the need for quarantining, consumers have started purchasing groceries online, opting for either self pick-up or engaging a delivery service.

To help retailers make their shift online, Shopify offers solutions, like creating a simple Shopify store to offer curbside pickup or local delivery options to customers. This can eventually lead to a more holistic shift to selling all or most of their products online.

If you’re new to the e-commerce landscape, below are some essential steps you can take to kickstart your online business. Soo, you will learn how to treat your homepage like your storefront and transition some of your physical store experience onto your product pages.

So, how do I create an online store?

 

1. Start a Shopify 90-day free trial

The first step is to visit shopify.com to start your online store with an extended 90-day free trial.

Here you’ll choose your store name, which will become the URL or domain name that your customers will use to shop from your store. You can start with the Basic plan to start with, but you can always upgrade as you see fit.

Note: You’ll need to add your credit card or PayPal address. Since you’re on a 90-day free trial, you won’t be billed for the duration of the trial period, and we’ll send you a reminder before your trial ends.

 

2. Choose a theme

Find the right theme, or website template, for your online store in the Shopify Theme Store. You can start with a free theme built by Shopify, or you can purchase a theme developed by one of their Partners.

You’ll want synchrony between your brick-and-mortar store and online presence, so try browsing themes by collection or industry and choosing one that best fits your brand. Of course, no theme is restricted to any industry, it’s just helpful to get you started quickly. You can always customize your theme later.

 

Prep your essential pages

The faster you make your online store available, the sooner customers will be able to continue purchasing your products. Focus on the basics: make sure your store features recognizable aspects of your business (like your logo or brand colors) and makes it easy for people to browse and buy.

No need to worry about the frills. Your priority is to get your products online and sell your in-store inventory. Here are the pages we recommend creating before you launch:

 

Homepage

Treat your homepage like your retail storefront. Shoppers use the homepage to discover new offers and promotions and navigate to product pages. Consider having a banner or notification bar that shares crucial information with customers, like what purchase or shipping options you’ve made available, or how they can support you with a gift card purchase.

 

Shipping FAQ

Recent supply chain challenges have been affecting shipping services in unpredictable ways, your customers may have a few shipping-related questions for you. Browse around to see how other local businesses are dealing with their Shipping FAQ at this time. It’s important to share any extra steps you’re taking to keep customers safe as you ship orders to their door, such as added precautions when you prepare or package your products.

 

Return and exchange policy

A written return policy allows you to establish clear, consistent guidelines for how customers can replace or refund their purchase. Dealing with return and exchange requests on a case-by-case basis isn’t sustainable, and can add unnecessary complexity (and cost) to your operation.

 

Contact Us

A good Contact Us page sets the right expectations with customers and makes it clear where and when they can reach you. Consider including a map of your store location for local shoppers, as well as a contact form so people don’t have to leave your website to get in touch with you.

 

Product pages

Your product pages are where you sell the value of your products, so it’s important to make them detailed and compelling. Below we’ve listed resources to help you build high-converting product pages, write compelling product descriptions, shoot good-looking product photography with the tools you have available.

 

Add your products

Adding your products can take some time if you have a large catalog, but there are ways to quickly get started. We’ve recently rolled out updates to make this process faster and easier, and we’re now offering free data migration services for customers launching their online store for the first time.

Here are a few ways you can add products:

  • Bulk upload from your Shopify admin. If you’re a Shopify customer, you can do a simple bulk upload of your inventory into Shopify
  • Use Shopify Mobile or Shopify POS. If you haven’t been up-to-date with your inventory, use the Shopify Mobile app and take pictures of your products with your mobile device’s camera, and add them to your online store, all in one simple workflow.
  • Use our free POS data migration service. For those of you who aren’t using Shopify POS for your brick-and-mortar store, this service will help you migrate your POS data into Shopify’s platform. Migrations are available for most POS systems, including Lightspeed, Square, Quickbooks, Vend, Shopkeep, and more.

 

Set up gift cards

Selling digital gift cards is one of the fastest ways for a brick-and-mortar business to start selling online and secure immediate cash flow. Here’s how it works:

  • You create a digital gift card
  • Customers can then buy and pay for gift cards through your new online store
  • Purchased gift cards are then delivered to your customers by email
  • All active gift cards can be tracked and managed in Shopify as customers redeem them in the future
  • As you launch new products that can be purchased online or make your products available for local delivery or pickup, customers can redeem gift cards at checkout. By default, the gift cards you create never expire.

 

Set up shipping

Shoppers are stuck at home and many need order to reach their doorstep, which means providing an affordable and convenient shipping experience is now crucial. Here are some recommendations to keep your business moving during these uncertain times — while staying safe.

 

1. Keep shipping costs down

Shipping costs can quickly eat away at independent retailers’ margins, so be strategic about the way you approach shipping and fulfillment. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Opt for manual shipping: Print labels, send shipping notifications, and track every part of your orders and manually fulfill orders where possible.
  • Skip the fancy packaging. You can get free packaging from all major couriers in the United States (USPS, DHL Express, and UPS) and Canada (Canada Post).
  • Set up Local Shipping. When customers are close to your business, you can offer a “local delivery” option. Local shipping rates will be automatically applied at checkout to customers in your selected zone.

 

2. Try Shopify Shipping

Shopify Shipping works with courier companies like DHL in Singapore and Malaysia and offers multiple mail classes with each carrier, so you can access features like overnight delivery, package pick-ups, tracking information, international shipping, and more depending on the carrier and mail class you choose.

Shopify also works with carriers directly to negotiate competitive rates for each shipping service, and those rates are automatically included on every plan at no extra cost to you.

 

3. Set up self pick-up for local customers

Curbside pickup allows your local customers to buy something online and pick it up outside your store — without ever having to leave their car. This “drive-through” option not only minimizes person-to-person interactions, but it’s also faster and reduces shipping costs. Here are the steps:

  1. Your customer will order and pay you online through your new online store
  2. You’ll get the order emailed to you, so you can prepare it safely
  3. You’ll then tell the customer when it’s ready for pickup
  4. Your customer will drive to your store and pop their trunk
  5. You’ll safely place their order in their trunk
  6. That’s it, you’re done!

 

Setting up payments

There are a few things to consider when you’re choosing which payment methods to offer online. If you want to let your customers pay using a credit card, then you can use Shopify Payments or a third-party provider. There are also several ways for customers to pay online without using a credit card, like PayPal or online bank transfer. Finally, accelerated checkouts like Shop Pay save shipping and payment information for returning customers to help them check out faster.

Read these considerations and instructions to make sure you choose the right payment methods for your business.

 

Let shoppers know you’re open for business

After you’ve set up your online store, your first priority is to inform current customers that you’re still open for business. Here’s how to announce that you’ve launched an online store, along with a few places you can likely reach your customers:

  • Email your customers. Have you collected customers’ emails in-person, through an existing website, or through your point-of-sale (POS) system? Now is a good time to stay in regular contact with them, and email provides a direct line to their inbox. To start, let customers know about recent changes, and how they can continue to buy your products or support you with gift card purchases.
  • Add signage to your storefront. For your local foot traffic, a sign on your door directing shoppers to your online store can be a simple but effective solution for notifying people about your new online store.
  • Post to social media. If you’re active on social media, add your store’s URL to your Instagram bio, pin a Tweet with your new URL or domain name, and share a status update with a link to your store on your Facebook page.
  • Add or update local listings. Google My Business is a free tool that helps you market your local business in Google Search and Google Maps. For example, you can post your website URL and photos of your products on your Business Profile, which can appear in Google’s search results. You can also list any of your special promotions or offers so customers have a reason to online shop with you.
  • Announce it on your homepage (when it’s live).

 

And there you have it, folks — your new online store!

 

Source: Resilient Retail: How to Move Your Brick-and-Mortar Business Online

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